K N K B W e b m u s e u m
     
1200-1450 | 1450-1700 | 1700-1885 | 1885-now
   
     
Colf - Kolf - Golf
 
 
     
History of colf and kolf
Low Countries and Scotland
14th century: the first charters
 
15th century: Growth
 
16th century: Further growth and extension
17th century: The zenith and the end
Game of kolf
History of golf
Colf (early golf) in America
 
 
 
 
 
Kolf video in english (1984 | 8:14 min)
   
     
4. 15th century: Growth  
In the course of this century we encounter references to the game of colf in ordinances of no less than 14 cities in Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and Flanders. The important role of the county of Holland is abundantly clear. No fewer than half the cities (7) lie in that county. The 7 others are spread as follows: 3 in Zeeland (Middelburg, Zierikzee and Goes), 2 in Flanders (Bruges and Malines) and 2 in Utrecht (the city of Utrecht and Amersfoort). 28th September 1401 saw the completion of the ordinance book of the city of Dordrecht. Paragraph 204leaves little doubt:
 
'Playing of ball games'
'Furthermore nobody shall play any ball games whatsoever, on the wide streets at the Gate-side nor at the Land-side (the two districts of the city) not in churchyards, nor in churches, nor in cloisters, not to throw balls, nor to play balls with the club, at 1 pound, to be encashed straightaway whatever it is found'.
 
Again, the height of the fine and the specific details in the prohobition give a good impression of the enthusiasm for the game in Dordrecht.
 
In the same year one can find the following passage in the ordinance book of the city of Utrecht: 'Furthermore the Council forbids ... neither to play with the club nor to play tennis (probably: kaatsen) on Oudwijk field'.
The city fathers cannot have had much success with their ordinance, because they repeated this ordinance several times and for three centuries later the Utrecht mail-course was constructed on that same field. This This magnificent course, with its lanes and trees, so much caught the fancy of Louis XIV of France during his visit to Utrecht that he regretfully remarked that he would have transported the entire course to Paris had it only been possible.
 
An ordinance of the city of Zierikzee of 1429 enacts 'that nobody ... strikes the ball on the streetswith clubs with lead or iron heads'. For the first time this shows that two types of club were in use.
 
In Rotterdam an ordinance of 28th July 1431 provides for compensation for damages to stained-glass windows.
 
The magistrates of Leyden forbid play of colf inside the city on 8th March 1454. Here play on ice is mentioned specifically for the first time. For play in the vicinity of churches and churchyards the fines were doubled.
 
My Lords of the Court of Justice of the city of Amsterdam in their ordinance of 29th December 1480 refer to the game of colf rather disdainfully as 'mischief'. Play clearly went on in the Nes, a long and straight street. Players who played there would do so -if apprehended- 'at the forfeit of the clothes they wear'. They were left naked in the streets. In other cities measures did not go quite so far, but confiscation of hats, coats and garments as tokens was fairly common.
 
A few years later, on 9th January 1484, Middelburg issued an ordinance of discipline for the Chamber of Poets (Rederijkers). They were allowed to walk the streets in long capes. If, however, one was found playing colf in his cape he would forfeit it.
 
In Gouda too, lead-headed clubs are mentioned in 1488.
 
In 1500 play was permitted in Delft for grown-ups ('persons who were their own masters') inasmuch as they played in places where it was permitted (no further details) and provided that the bet on the game was no more than a modest consumption at the pub, in accordance with the social status of the players. Gradually the authorities discovered the wisdom of assigning certain places for play rather than attempting to forbid it altogether. In Antwerp the Castle Square served for a course and in Leyden it was permitted in 'enclosed grounds'.
 
In the same period we aolso find evidence that there was a sufficient volume of play to keep artisans employed in making clubs and balls. On 11th March 1437 (again: secundum cursum curiae!) the 'Law and Council' of the city of Middelburg resolved that 'John the Ballmaker' who had rented the house 'In de Hasert' from the Marquess of Veere and 'organised kaats games and other mischief' there would not enjoy the exemption from excise which the Marquess himself enjoyed. An ordinance of the same city dated 22nd December 1474 concerning the St. Nicholas- or Merchant's Guild states that citizens, male and female, who sell clubs and balls, will come under this guild inasmuch as 'they sell more than he of she makes in his own house'.
 
In 1461 the Magistrates of Bergen op Zoom decreed that at the weekly merket 'the ball-people with their balls' should post themselves along the Grebbe (a canal) from the bridge in front of Master Arent Goes's house towards the public convenience further along. If they did otherwise it would cost them 16 groats.
 
Read more:
History of colf and kolf
Low Countries and Scotland
14th century: the first charters
16th century: Further growth and extension
17th century: The zenith and the end
Game of kolf
History of golf
Colf (early golf) in America
 
 
By courtesy of the Early Golf Foundation (Steven J.H. van Hengel's book Early Golf, 1982). 
     
     
Royal Dutch Kolf Union | St. Eloy's Hospice | Early Golf Foundation
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